Immersed 11 feet underground in Los Angeles’s sewer pipeline system, 13-year-old Jesse Hernandez prayed he would survive.
“I was just praying to God to help me and to not die,” he told NBC News, speaking publicly for the first time after he was rescued following 12 hours trapped in a sewer pipe.
He couldn’t see anything down there, he said. It was dark and quiet as he griped onto the sewage pipe, leaving handprints behind. “I was scared,” he told NBC News.
Those handprints, however, helped rescuers save the teen who fell into the sewer system when a plank broke over an access tunnel while he was out with his family on Sunday. He fell 25 feet down into the sewage moving at 15 miles per hour, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department.
“The water took me,” Jesse said
He then moved through a pipe that was just four feet in diameter and was stuck there for more than 12 hours before rescuers found him. More than 100 members of the L.A. Fire Department and other officials conducted the search with the City’s Bureau of Sanitation, Engineering and Contract Administration. They were aided by a robot with a camera and the light that had the ability to crawl and float through the sewer system. The camera helped rescuers spot Jesse’s handprints, and sanitation workers opened a nearby manhole at around 4:55 a.m. on Monday.
It was then that Jesse cried for help and the rescuers lowered a hose for him to grab onto. He was taken to a hospital and released the same day.
“He has tremendous inner strength,” said Brian Humphrey, a spokesperson for the L.A. Fire Department, according to the Associated Press. “It’s obvious he’s not a quitter.”